Controversy as students teach sex ed

February 15, 2008 3:36:58 PM PST
Sex education has often been a point of controversy in school districts around the country. Now in Gloucester County, it is again, this time because the teachers are students. The program has been around in the state since 1999, but it's new this year to Clearview Regional High School.

The program is peer based, which means trained juniors and seniors help answer questions from freshman about sexuality.

"The information is conveyed in a very professional manner; it is given in a very objective manner. It's meant to give freshmen the information they need to be safer," Michael Porter, a faculty advisor for the Teen Prevention Education Program or Teen Pep, said.

The program trains juniors and seniors to be peer educators for younger students on issues from sexual health and teen pregnancy to homosexuality.

"The premise is that students are going to be more receptive to hearing this information from their peers than they are from an adult teacher," Porter said.

Only freshman who have parental permission can participate in the program. It is not mandatory and Porter says there is always adult supervision present.

"I actually think it's a good program and I don't mind the peers, juniors and seniors talking to freshman, because maybe they would open up to them more," Josie Rabeck, a parent, said.

The parents who aren't okay with Teen Pep have set up a petition seeking web site called Pure Pioneers.

Lisa Westermann, a parent, says she favors sex education and even proposed a program, but she doesn't like Teen Pep.

School officials say they're willing to address community concerns and make changes if necessary.

Right now, though, they believe a peer based program for sex ed is beneficial.